Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Reeling ‘Em In: Skill level of some fish filletters is surreal

Last weekend as I was cruising the Homer Spit’s cleaning tables to see what was flopping on the cutting counters, I came across a surreal scene.

One of the semi-enclosed structures was packed with what turned out to be a bunch of friends (not mine) from up north who were doing a Freddy Kruger number on a bunch of carcasses that, once, might have been reds.

I won’t get into a social distancing discussion here, but let’s just say a French kissing contest would have produced more spacing.

Other than being concerned about getting too near to what could have been a COVID spawning ground, I was stunned at the skill level of the knife wielders. There didn’t seem to be any. They were leaving enough meat in the gut bucket to start a restaurant while looking like a frenzied mob in a Whack-A-Mole contest.

I must admit that they were having a great time and openly admitted that only two of them had ever filleted a fish. It was hard to tell which two because they all came across as equally inept as they pounded as much brew as they did fish.

I stood there for a moment pondering how much things have gone sideways since that nasty COVID-19 bug popped up. Normally, I or one of my piscatorian pals would have offered some tips to those filleting impaired visitors but, nowadays, this gray-haired dude wasn’t about to go near them without deep-sea diving gear and a flame thrower. So, I left them alone to bag their catch with ice cream scoops.

The experience brought back a distant memory about visiting a fish processing station under different circumstances and times.

Again, I was out poking around the Spit when I noticed a small group of people watching two elderly and highly skilled ladies produce fillets that were nothing short of fine art.

They were beautifully disassembling a pile of nice Chinooks in less time than it took the guys next to them to pick out which end of the fish they wanted to start on.

I remembered easing up to a gentleman who was bagging the primo fillets and whispered, “Those women are incredible.” “Suppose so,” he groused. “You shoulda seen ‘em roll when they were in their mid-60s.”

I never ran into the filleting Ninjaettes again, but I’ll never forget watching those septuagenarians deftly manipulate their wicked-sharp blades in ways that would make Bruce Lee drool. Unfortunately, memory wise, the same goes for those weed-whacking partiers last week.

Now it’s time for the fishing report for the week of Aug. 11-17.

Freshwater Fishing

Dolly Varden

Dolly fishing on the lower Kenai Peninsula roadside streams, including the Anchor River, has remained poor to just a bit better than that.

In the Anchor, it looks like the dollies have moved up to around Blackwater Bend. The river has been running at a healthy level with pinks as abundant as ticks on a Texas boar. The good news is that there are some reports of silvers being taken with eggs being the preferred early morning meal.


Coho fishing has been lame but, hopefully, the larger tides next week will light a fire under their anal fins and they’ll start to roll into the streams. That is, if they can mug their way through the chaotic stampede of hapless humpies.

Cross your fingers and try fishing a small piece of cured eggs under a bobber near the mouth of the Anchor River or Deep Creek. It seems to be working so far.

The Ninilchik River has had decent counts of silvers through the upper weir, so there may be be some action waiting for you in the lower 2 miles that are open to salmon fishing. By the way, if the egg presentations bomb out, the coho can be suckers for flashy spinners.

Coho counts on the Anchor River are now on the Fish Counts website at

Saltwater Fishing


Good halibut takes remain the special of the day around most offshore locations and many of the flats are carrying impressive poundage. If the thought of some fresh beer-battered halibut fires up your salivary glands, but you’re short a boat, call one of the fine charters available in Homer, Anchor Point and Ninilchik.


Trolling for silvers remains pretty slow in Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet.

Coho fishing in the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon is rather grim, but the tight liners and treble-hook snaggers are hanging in, so there must be something going on. When they and the seals finally skulk off, you might as well pull a tarp over the pond. For those trying to do the right thing, keep working the outside of the lagoon on the start of the outgoing tide and the inside entrance when the water begins its return to the interior. Eggs or herring under a bobber are still your best bet.

Chinook trolling has been unreliable, but hunters are still taking some blackmouth in most locations around Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet, including south of Bluff Point and Point Pogibshi.

Heads up — the Kachemak Bay Coho Salmon Gillnet Fishery kicks off at 6 a.m. on the first Monday or Thursday following Aug. 15 to 6 a.m. on the last Wednesday or Saturday before Sept. 16. You do the math.

Fishing can only occur during open fishing periods from 6 a.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Wednesday and from 6 a.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Saturday. The fishery closes by emergency order when 1,000 to 2,000 coho have been harvested.

Check out all the requirements of this fishery on page 15 of the South Central Alaska Sports Fishing Regulations Summary because I’m tired of typing everything out for those of you too lazy to look stuff up for yourselves.

Emergency Orders: Southern Area

Emergency Order 2-RCL-7-03-20 and 2-RCL-7-04-20 closed all eastside Cook Inlet beaches to clamming for all species from the mouth of the Kenai River to the southernmost tip of the Homer Spit in 2020.

For the latest fishing report and emergency orders from the Northern Area, visit

Until next week …

Nick can be reached at if he still isn’t trying to shake the visual of the whackaholic chop-a-thon last week.

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